Meeting of August 10, 2008

Jack Leathers on “George Thomas: The Rock of Chickamauga”

portrait of Civil War general

Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas (Wikipedia)

Although Jack’s presentation was comprehensive in covering much of George Thomas’s personal history and military career, Jack began by focusing on what was to be his most notable battle—the September 19-20, 1863, Battle of Chickamauga, the one that would earn him the acclaimed nickname of “The Rock of Chickamauga.”

Following his recounting of this momentous battle, Jack reviewed the career of George Thomas—how Thomas graduated near the top of his class at West Point in 1840 and received his first assignment to fight the Seminole Indians in Florida.

Jack next touched on Thomas’s service during the Mexican War as he served under Gen. Zachary Taylor and proved himself in the battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Thomas, although a Virginian and slave owner, chose to remain with the Union, saying “It is not my wish to leave the service of the United States as long as it is honorable for me to remain with it.”

Jack’s presentation continued with a look at other noteworthy battles, apart from Chickamauga, in which Thomas and his troops participated—Mill Springs, Chattanooga, the Atlanta Campaign, and the battle for Peachtree Creek, culminating his Civil War career in the two-day battle of Nashville.

In his conclusion, Jack touched briefly on Thomas’s post-war years—his assignment as a subordinate of Sherman in the Military Division of the Mississippi and a later command of the Pacific in San Francisco. In these later years rumors and controversies swirled around reports, from western newspapers, that Halleck had written a letter indicating that Grant had once planned to remove Thomas in favor of Schofield—that the Nashville campaign had already been won at the Battle of Franklin. Thomas’s men rushed to his defense, adamant that “Ole Pap” Thomas had brought the contest to a thorough conclusion at Nashville.

Thomas died at his desk on March 28, 1870, with his own comments almost complete.

Even today the sightless eyes of George Thomas’s bronze equestrian monument on Boulevard Circle look South upon a Washington for whom he constantly delivered—only to receive everlasting minimal respect from his superiors.

Business Meeting

A brief business meeting followed Jack’s talk, which included the following:

  • Recognition and Birthday Card for Bill Burch’s 99th birthday.
  • Update on our new website, with special recognition and appreciation to Hal Jespersen for all his time and assistance.
  • Reminder on registration for the annual West Coast Civil War Round Table Conference in Clovis, CA on November 7-9.
  • Preview of upcoming programs for September, October, and November.
  • Election of Officers for the forthcoming program year. For this item, a motion was made (and seconded) that the current officers be “accepted by acclamation” to serve another year. The motion passed unanimously.
  • A reminder that there would be no meeting on the last Tuesday of August, inasmuch as the picnic is our August meeting and that our next regular monthly meeting will be held at Holder’s Country Inn on September 30th.